Three years ago, local music business veterans Mike Hergenreter and Danny Kime shared a vision — a music hall with a hi-tech twist. Come early May, that dream will be a reality. The future of live music has come to Eugene.
Hi Fi Music Hall will open as a new 700-person capacity venue with two stages, two bars, a restaurant and a patio at 44 E. 7th Ave., the former space of Dusk night club and Rock ‘n’ Rodeo. Zeppelin tribute act Zepparella will play the inaugural show May 8.
Hergenreter and Kime have teamed up with food cart Sandwich League for the restaurant, which will be open seven days a week. Hi Fi will also work with Gravity Lab Media to stream concerts live.
“It will be a game changer in Eugene and around the country,” Hergenreter says. “Hi Fi will serve as a one-stop shop for the industry.”
Growing a Music Hall
With what they’ve described as invaluable assistance from the city of Eugene, Hergenreter and Kime considered many locations in the downtown core before settling upon the space kitty-corner to the Hult Center.
Hi Fi will have two stages with the larger concert room for both all-ages and 21-plus shows. The 21-plus area will feature a unique “backstage” view of the show through one-way plexiglass.
The small stage will be in the restaurant area and will act as a space to help grow local bands, with the goal that they will eventually move to the large stage. Shows on the small stage will always be free.
“There’s going to be a great relationship between the bar and patio area,” Hergenreter says. “You’ll be able to watch the show from the patio.”
Hergenreter and Kime say the building needed mostly cosmetic changes, and the new space will have an industrial modern look, mixing wood and metal.
The partners also removed the space’s dropped ceiling. “I had to,” Hergenreter jokes. “It was like this thing that just crazed my mind. These ceilings just do not work for concerts!”
“We don’t want to overdo it either,” Kime chimes in. “When you’re there we want your focus to be on the music.”
Right now, the team is focused on completing exterior changes to help give the space, which has gained a wild reputation in its former incarnations, a fresh feel.
“We never want anyone to think, what is going on there that would make me want to take my business elsewhere?” Hergenreter says.
The Music Stream
Hergenreter, who has worked with WOW Hall and Kesey Enterprises, says the music business is about forming and maintaining relationships.
“The band wants to stay with you,” Hergenreter says. “Doing so has allowed me to reach a point in my career when I’m able to open up a music hall.”
One relationship vital to Hi Fi’s success is the partnership Hergenreter and Kime have struck with Gravity Lab.
“It’s the future of music,” Kime says. All shows at Hi Fi will be live streamed and free to watch online. Gravity Lab is also developing an app allowing patrons to instantly download the show to their devices even as they queue up to leave. The live streams will be cataloged on the Hi Fi website.
“It’s about building brand awareness,” Hergenreter says.
And for those who might want to watch the show from the bar without paying a cover? The music from the larger stage will be live streamed to the bar area for free. Kime says studies show free live streaming doesn’t affect ticket sales.
“We want it to be about development,” Hergenreter says, adding that these features can help build bands and bring more diversity to the bands that come through Eugene.
A Sound Partnership
Mike Hergenreter moved to Eugene from Colorado 13 years ago. With a vague sense of wanting to work in the music business, he hit the pavement, scoring an unpaid volunteer position with the WOW Hall.
He soon moved to a part-time paid booking position and later became the talent buyer for Kesey Enterprises (which oversees the McDonald Theatre, Cuthbert Amphitheater and Eugene Celebration).
Danny Kime grew up in Southern Oregon. He studied music business at Southern Oregon University as well as event management in Australia. Eventually landing in Eugene, Kime met Hergenreter through managing various productions for Kesey Enterprises.
Hergenreter and Kime saw something lacking in Eugene’s circuit of music venues — a true, mid-sized room dedicated to live music; a place for nationally touring bands to develop a local audience; and a middle ground between small local venues and larger spaces like McDonald or Cuthbert.
Hergenreter and Kime say the Hi Fi Music Hall was inspired partially by venues such as The Doug Fir in Portland and The Crocodile in Seattle.
For more information and a full calendar of events check out hifimusichall.com.